Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sparking Motivation

I love a good project.
I also love a good Netflix movie and a bowl of ice cream. Unfortunately, I may have been caught up in the latter activity for a little too long. Just like my favorite baby book quips "sleep begets sleep" I would also add that "productivity begets productivity" and "Netflix and chill begets Netflix and chill."

But lately as we've been preparing for our big move, I've been quite productive. One might even say I've been TCBing. (Taking Care of Business.) A lot of the projects I've tackled haven't necessarily had a time frame attached to them, but since the move to our new house does have a time frame I've been nudged to do some things I've put on the back burner for years.  I've tackled memory keeping and scrapbooks, we've cleaned out and sold a lot of stuff from our home and now I'm finally moving on to prepping some things for the new house that I want to keep, but that also need a little refreshing.

For example this week I refinished an old school desk for Zuzu's new room. The desk has been in our basement for a couple of years in our make-shift play area. So it didn't exactly go un-used, but I had been meaning to refinish it for a while. The process was easy enough and one of those why-did-I-wait-so-long? things.

Well, I do know. It wasn't any one thing, there were lots of reasons really. Today I want to share how I've been getting out of my lack-of-motivation stage and back into TCBing. Maybe something below will spark a something in you that will help you get past a funk or find the energy to tackle just one little project that has been back-burnered for a little too long.

Times and Seasons
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to organize the filing cabinet, a time to take a bath; A time to clean out the basement, a time to binge watch Stranger Things. A time to re-finish a desk, a time to stuff your face with chocolate and zone out on the couch If you are in a phase of life that is taking up more energy than usual, it's OK to press the survival mode button on life and take the breaks when you can get them. Some examples might be a new baby, a new job, moving, or even emotional burnout. Whatever it is, it's fine to take a break, zone out and chill. BUT...

Be purposeful in your relaxation
If you are zoning out and taking a break, then REALLY ZONE OUT and REALLY TAKE A BREAK. As many of us are grappling with a more healthy relationship with technology, I've noticed that not only do I get distracted when I'm in the middle of normal everyday life, I'm also getting distracted when I try to relax and watch a show. Perhaps you argue that scrolling through your phone while you watch a show is part of the "relaxing" but I disagree. Picking up my phone during a show, missing key elements of the plot that I eventually have to pause and rewind for, isn't because I feel so free and relaxed I can pick up my phone whenever I want to, it's because checking social media is an anxious compulsion that is keeping me from being fully present in my own relaxation and enjoyment. I've noticed on nights when I'm compulsively scrolling through my phone or even randomly surfing the internet aimlessly for long periods of time I don't feel as if I've had a break or if I've relaxed at all.

Recognize When Your Break has Crossed Over into Lack of Motivation
Take a break, enjoy your season of relaxation be it a few days or a few months (ahem, new baby). But if your period of relaxation has now crossed over into a more persistent stagnation and a lack of motivation, perhaps you're ready to take small steps towards your to-do list. This of course, is the hard part.

Start Small
Nothing is more unmotivating to your sudden burst of creative energy than when you decided you can finally tackle cleaning out the entire garage in one morning by yourself only to get about half way in and realize you've bitten off more than you can chew. At that point you are most likely going to throw in the towel. So instead of cleaning out your kids bedroom, clean out their closet. Instead of sweeping the entire house for items to take to Goodwill, start with just the kitchen, or maybe even a single junk drawer. Start small and work your way up. As stated above, "productivity begets productivity."
Break a project down into smaller, mini-projects 
Once again, this helps when faced with a huge task before you that feels overwhelming. Instead of thinking of it as one big project (that will never get done) break it up into small, mini-projects. This mentality was key when I made our quilt a number of years back. This quilt was a big undertaking and a months and months long project. Every little part of making the quilt became it's own project. First was mapping out the quilt on paper (that alone took hours), then buying, washing and ironing the fabric was another project. Then cutting the pieces, then sewing the pieces together in straight lines, then sewing the lines together, etc. I would work on each mini-project for days and then give myself time in between to catch my breath (sometimes weeks). That was the only way I managed not to go crazy with that project.

Make the project more enjoyable
Watching movies and shows isn't all about relaxing. It's also about being entertained. Certain projects require more attention than others, but if you can listen to an audiobook or a podcast while working on a craft, even better. The other day as I was painting Zuzu's new desk set I couldn't wait to keep going because I wanted to get to the end of my book. (Which just so happened to be "To All the Boys I've Loved Before." Which was great, but to my surprise I liked the movie better! Don't worry I've got the sequel in my queue.) In that case the book provided the motivation. If you make a rule that you can only listen to or watch certain things while doing a specific project, you might get it done faster than you think.

Goodness gracious I haven't cracked any secret codes and I am no expert, but whether it's a major clean out or an art project these are the things that help me get my motivation back on track. What helps you get motivated when you've had a long period of lacking motivation? Anything I'm missing? 


  1. Sometimes I need to enlist help just for the motivation factor! My kids' had new bikes sitting in boxes for months until I asked my dad to come help me put them together. Since I knew he was coming, I couldn't bail!

    1. YES! Enlisting help. That's brillant.

  2. Love the desk! I like breaking up my projects in small bits (much like you, I found this out while quilting). Whenever I'm unmotivated, I start to stock up the materials I need for all the projects on my list. Once I get the motivation, I can jump on the project right away since I already have all the stuff I need.

    1. Yes--that too is another I like to do--get all the supplies so when I have the motivation I can tackle it. In fact a lot of times I consider that's another "mini-project."

  3. Anonymous11:13 PM

    This is a great post! A lot of wisdom.

    I can't say exactly what motivates me, but I often find myself stalling because I'm over-thinking or trying too hard to perfectly prioritize my project, or a specific project. I end-up feeling overwhelmed and then I end-up doing nothing at all. How backwards is that? I find that if I "just start," if I just decide to take that first step, however imperfectly, I end-up being way more productive. So, like you said, "start small."

    Not sure why I felt the need to repeat my version of "start small" here in the comments, but there you have it ;).


    P.S. That desk is adorable.